City Nights: Seoul

Our KIN network takes us on a trip to their home cities. This time we head into the night with creative agency owner Jun Bae in Seoul…

Jun is former Culture Director at Seoul’s RYSE Hotel. Now with her own boutique creative agency, Jun connects brands with Korean culture and trends. We catch up with her about the changing face of Seoul’s nightlife.

“The city lights after dark are nothing short of inspiring.

Whether I’m relaxing at home, out with friends or digging through exhibitions or new restaurants – the lights are always there. They tell different stories: in Eulgiro, lights spilling out of the high-rises illuminate people working into the night; while near Han river, you see a blur of cars travelling back and forth.

Sometimes the lights are striking and energetic, sometimes they’re more like a warm glow.” 

It always feels safe going out in Seoul.

“Walking around crowded party areas like Hongdae and Itaewon is like walking through my own quiet neighbourhood.” 

There’s been a lot of change over the last few years. 

“You used to have to go to party hubs to hang out at night – Hongdae, Itaewon, Gangnam – now every corner of Seoul offers something fun. On one small alley in my neighbourhood there’s a wine bar, a cafe, a Mexican restaurant, an independent bookstore, and (of course) a Korean BBQ joint.”

Seoul is feeling the generation gap. 

“… especially when it comes to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic people associate with South Korea. Office culture is changing; when I started working in 2010, we’d work until 11pm, go out for drinks, and then go back to work the next day – even on weekends. Koreans are changing though, and individual happiness is becoming more important. The 52 hour work week is being strictly enforced by the government, for a start.”

Evenings at home and staycations are two growing trends.  

“People are spending more time at home during the evenings – socialising, hanging out, drinking – and caring way more about their home interiors. Staycations are also huge in South Korea right now. So many local guests use our hotel rooms at RYSE as their party rooms – not like the typical American house party, but for small gatherings and as a base camp for their night out.” 

There’s nothing like the night mood of Seoul. 

“The shift from day to night is different depending on where you go. In Hongdae it gets louder, younger and brighter; while Jamsil becomes quieter and slower; and Itaewon welcomes in a totally different crowd at night. Wherever you go, Seoul has a sense of serenity and beauty at night.”

To delve into more city life read City Limits, our series of pieces exploring the urban experience here.